THE SECOND SUNDAY OF THE EASTER SEASON – DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY: As we read The Columbus Dispatch, watch any of the network or cable news programs, or go a news web page, we might be asking ourselves why there such a lack of peace in the world. Actually the answer is quite simple: there are a great many in this world who do not take God seriously, nor do they humbly approach Him to receive His mercy. There is a lack of peace in the world because some still want to place their opinions on an equal level or even above God; for whatever reason some feel compelled to play God by determining according to their all-too human standards what is right or wrong, or imposing their will upon God rather that submit to the will of God, and refusing to turn back to Him to beg his forgiveness and receive it. And the longer we refuse to acknowledge our need for God’s mercy, seek it and share it, the worse it gets. Think of what our world would be like if each of us repented and stopped breaking the Ten Commandments. There would be no murder, no hatred, no broken families, no stealing, no lying, no envy, no adultery. There can be no real peace when modern-day Cains are killing Abels. There can be no peace when there is no peace at the home because of lack of respect or infidelity. There can be no real peace if we cannot trust and love each other. There’s a bumper sticker that you still see on cars that became very popular when I was young. It was taken out of context from a quotation from Pope Paul VI: “If you want peace, work for justice.” But the justice he was talking about primarily was our becoming just with God through the forgiveness of our sins, and our sharing that justice with others. A better motto would be, “If you want peace, go to confession!” “If you want peace, bring others to Christ in confession!” “If you want peace, and you’re a young man, ask yourself whether the Lord might be calling you to be a priest,” so that he can send you out, just like He sent the apostles out, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to forgive and retain sins in His name. For peace, we have to recognize our need for God’s mercy, ask for and receive that mercy, and then share that mercy with others. God always leaves a light on for us, patiently waiting for our return to Him, even when we have left him behind time and time again throughout our lives! He is never far from us, and if we return to Him, God is ready to embrace us. To experience this level of peace in our lives this typically involves three steps:
- Recognize our need for God’s mercy. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), we have to realize that we have sinned, and that without God’s forgiveness, we will die in our sins. But God does not desire the death of the sinner, but that the sinner return to him and live, which leads us to the second step.
- Trust in, humbly ask for, and receive God’s mercy. In this world, Jesus established only one ordinary way for us to receive this mercy for all the sins we’ve committed after our baptism: the sacrament of reconciliation, confessing our sins to Christ through the priest. There are a lot of people today, including Catholics, who say, “I can confess my sins directly to the Lord!” Out of real love for you, please let be very clear: you can confess your sins to whomever you want — to your best friends, husbands or wives, parents and children, co-workers, social workers, shrinks, bartenders, radio call-in show host — to anyone you want. But you can’t receive forgiveness there, which is the point. The only means in this world in which we can be certain that the Lord forgives us is when we confess our sins to a priest, whom Jesus has ordained, and sent out from the Upper Room for this purpose.
- Share it with others. We’re called to be merciful with others. Jesus said, “Be merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful… The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.” In another place, the Lord says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” The Lord’s point is that the pre-requisite for our receiving mercy is our showing mercy to others. After having taught us the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”) in which we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we have forgiven those who have trespassed against us,” the Lord instructs us, “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their sins, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your sins.”
As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, let us remember what Lord said to Saint Faustina: “I want… the first Sunday after Easter … to be the Feast of Mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day, the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.”
▪ I wish to thank Fr. Jared Wicks, S.J., and Msgr. Frank Lane who presented “Two Popes, Two Saints: Perspectives on John XXIII and John Paul II” this past Tuesday in our Cathedral Church. Nearly 200 people attended this wonderful presentation as part of our Cathedral Speaker Series, and I thank all who attended.
▪ Today we celebrate a special day in the Church – the canonization of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II. I have included some information in this bulletin about these two Saints, most of us have known in our lifetime. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops web page has additional information: www.usccb.org.
-Fr. Mike Lumpe